With the bipartisan DREAM Act unable to pass the Republican-led House, President Obama acted nearly two years ago, announcing that he's using executive-branch authority to allow young "Dreamers" to remain in the United States without the threat of deportation.
What the White House could not legally do, however, is make these immigrant kids citizens or put them on a path to citizenship. One GOP lawmaker has a worthwhile idea
about helping take the next step.
Rep. Jeff Denham wants a vote on his bill that would allow illegal immigrants brought to the country as children to gain permanent residence in the United States in exchange for military service -- and he's got a plan in the works. The California Republican is looking for Democrats and Republicans who are members of the House Armed Services Committee to sign on as co-sponsors of his legislation, known as the ENLIST Act, a House GOP aide familiar with Denham's efforts told CQ Roll Call.
It's a pretty straightforward idea: under this policy, young, undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before they turned 15 would be able to join the U.S. military. After their service, so long as they're honorably discharged, these immigrants would become legal permanent residents and be eligible to apply for citizenship.
Denham's bill would be fully in line with American traditions -- many immigrants to the U.S. became citizens by serving in the military -- and has already picked up some bipartisan support
Procedurally, proponents hope to act quickly so that the ENLIST Act can be added as an amendment to the 2015 defense spending bill, which the House Armed Services Committee is posed to mark up in the coming weeks.
But this won't be easy. The committee's chairman, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.), won't commit to a vote on the amendment, and the far-right is just now starting to rally against it.
Take Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), for example.
King's unapologetic anti-immigrant rhetoric has been well documented for years -- I assume we all remember the "cantaloupe
" rhetoric from last summer -- and by all appearances, the Iowa Republican remains proud
of the role he's played in the debate.
And so it probably shouldn't have surprised anyone when King started making the case
against Denham's ENLIST Act this week.
Democrats are going after immigration hardliners -- including Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) -- for their remarks against undocumented young people who came to the United States as children. After previously comparing Dreamers to drug mules, King said Wednesday that those who want to enlist in the military should be immediately deported instead. "As soon as they raise their hand and say, 'I'm unlawfully present in the United States,' we're not going take your oath into the military, but we're going to take your deposition and we have a bus for you to Tijuana," he told Breitbart News.
There were some reports this week that Latino voters and proponents of immigration reform in general are feeling so discouraged by congressional inaction that they may not bother to vote
in the 2014 midterms.
One wonders if Steve King might inspire them to change their minds on whether or not to get engaged in the elections.